The Priesthood of All Believers

The Descent of the Holy Spirit in a 15th centu...Pentecost has always been an hard Holy Day for me.  I grew up baptist in a family of ministers.  Like them, I felt the call to ministry early.

When I was 6, the Sunday school teacher gave the call to salvation, and I knew more clearly than I ever knew anything before or since that I had to accept Christ into my life.  The call to ministry was so strong.  I would grow up and be a Baptist minister like my grandfather and great-grandfather.

Divine Intervention

My plan never included my conversion to Catholicism.  When it happened, I assumed that I would take up Holy Orders and join the priesthood.

The longer I spent in the the Roman Church, the more alienated I felt from the hierarchy and the deeper the traditions, liturgy, and theology appealed to me.  I am not going to go into all of the details regarding why I left the Roman Church, but I will simply say that I have not been able to even contemplate entering a Roman church since the death of John Paul II, of blessed memory.

Now I am in a strange place:

The Wilderness

It is difficult to be a non-Roman but still Catholic on any given Sunday.  The Holidays are harder, and Pentecost is the most difficult.

  • My protestant upbringing tells me that I do not need a Priest or the Magisterium to celebrate Mass or the Sacraments.

  • My catholic side sees the importance of the ordained and consecrated priesthood.

Pentecost exacerbates the problem.

The Anointing of the Holy Spirit


And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, "Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God."

And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:1-12)?

My protestant education taught me that this was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit for all believers.  My Roman Catholic instruction says that this is the chrism imparted on the Apostles passed through the priesthood.

Peter's sermon seems to validate the Protestant reading:

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:  And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:16-21).

It is clear that this passage is about all believers.  Pentecost is for all of us.  The office of the Apostles was to shepherd the flock as guides on the journey.  The old priesthood died when the temple veil ripped at the Crucifixion.  But this leads me into a strange and interesting path:

What does lay lead Catholicism look like?

That is the the heart of the question.  In the last reformation, the protestants left behind most of the Catholicism, and replaced it with new traditions, practices and confessions.

Matthew Fox has called for a new reformation, and I hear that call loudly.  The challenge is for people like me, who hear the call for reformation this time, to keep what is best about the tradition, and build on that historical foundation a new home for those called to this path.

I am not sure what that will look like, but I am committed to seeking it out.  Hopefully, some of you will come along on the journey.


Come, Holy Spirit!  As we remember the day you broke into the world to fill the Church with your new life, guide us in the path of righteousness as we follow the path toward reformation.  Illuminate our minds and take up residence in our hearts as we seek to find our way through wilderness like the Israelites of old.  Lead us to the mountain where we might leave behind our golden calves and learn the ways of God.


CH 1: Obedience, Detachment, and Chastity

(commentary on the Regula Bullata, The Latter Rule of St Francsis of Assisi)


As a believer in exile. The first chapter of the Regula bullata is the hardest for me to read. The Seraphic Father swears his loyalty, and all of his successors' loyalty to the Pope and his successors. As a catholic, this used to be an easy chapter, but after the election of the current Pope, I thought this chapter was impossible to follow.

I do not take this stance lightly. I do not want to look at the rule and say these chapters I will follow, but these I will not. If we are going to apply this line item veto to the rule, then we might as well not even have one. I think our modern circumstances are different, and our embrace of this monastic model for the rebuilding of the church through the new reformation means that we have to read this chapter carefully.

The Seraphic Father swears his and his successors' loyalty to the Pope and his canonically elected successors. That last phrase is the problem: Who is the canonically elected successor to the Pope. Prior to the reformation, this was an easy question to answer (if we set aside the anti-popes for a moment), but after the reformation, the answer is muddy.

The Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, congregationalist, and Quakers have all answered this question differently and the same. In one way or another, they have all sworn their allegiance to the Holy Spirit and each has crafted their own method to try to discern the will of the Spirit, but if you believe that any or all of these groups are guided by the Holy Spirit, then the charism of the Apostles has been passed to them. So I too swear loyalty to the guidance of the Spirit of Truth and seek to find the best method for discerning the will of the spirit.

The vow to live the Gospel by living in obedience, without anything of our own, and in chastity means something altogether different to a lay movement than they would to a Friar.

For a Seraphic Christian to live in obedience is not a matter of bowing the knee to an earthly authority. Humans are always prone to mistakes, no matter how well intentioned they may be. To follow any person or institution blindly is dangerous and likely to cause pain and suffering.

I vow my obedience to Jesus Christ, our heavenly High Priest who stands before the mercy seat of God. All any Christian can be asked to do is to like in good conscience with their own understanding of the will of God, and to collectively try to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in the same fashion as the Religious Society of Friends.

This is the problem I have with the Obedience and reverence to the Pope, who ever that might be at the time. I would say, if you are a Roman Catholic, then you have already made this pledge. I know I did when my heart remained within the Roman Church, but as the gulf between my spiritual home in Creation Spirituality and Rome widened, it became increasingly more difficult to do this.

The hardest thing I have ever done was leave the Roman Church. My faith was stretched to the breaking point to do so, but it was as necessary as the split during the Renaissance. The institution had overshadowed the spirit of the church. As with most denominations, political factions have replaced spiritual yearning and the desire to hear the voice of the Spirit.

The church has never been and should not be a democracy, but it should seek consensus of the faithful through prayer and study to discern the will of God. The Spirit's voice has been heard to free the scriptures from the control of the clergy so everyone can read them. She has freed the slaves from the ecclesiastical blessing of slavery. She has revealed the injustice of racism, sexism, and colonialism. These were not easy words for the church to hear when the Word came to us, but eventually the clergy discerned the will of God on these issues.

The work of the church is to live the Gospel, not to enforce a set of particular beliefs that have evolved and changed over time and which will continue to do so. I hope that the time will come when the I can return home, but while I walk through this wasteland, I will pitch the tent of the Lord where I am.

It is obviously unrealistic to ask a lay believer to live without anything of their own as the rule says, but it is imperative that all believers learn to live in a state of detachment from the the things in their life to help them cultivate an enlightened mind and a heart of compassion.

My possessions are not my own. They come and go as time passes. The same is true about my beliefs. Every time I read the scriptures, I see something that I didn't see the last time through. I do not allow myself to become so attached to my preconceived notions that I cannot hear the Spirit speak in Lectio Divina. I can read the same passage three times and see it three different ways. That is the power and the glory of faith.

When have to remember the Four Noble Truths of Practice:

1. All life is unsatisfying. (we always want more)
2. The cause of this is attachment and aversion.
3. There is freedom from this unsatisfactory nature of all thins.
4. The cause of enlightenment is the Noble Eightfold Path.

This is the heart of the second vow, the vow of detachment.

I am not a Shaker, and do not expect believers to live a life of celibacy. Chastity is a state of living morally pure. Do not use others.